Pope Francis attends an audience with participants of a course on the Internal Forum promoted by the Apostolic Penitentiary Court, in the Pope Paul VI hall, at the Vatican, Friday, March 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Pope Francis attends an audience with participants of a course on the Internal Forum promoted by the Apostolic Penitentiary Court, in the Pope Paul VI hall, at the Vatican, Friday, March 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Pope demands sex abuse claims be reported in Vatican City

The Vatican’s ambassadors have figured in some of the most scandalous cases of sex abuse in recent years

Pope Francis on Friday issued sweeping new sex abuse legislation for Vatican personnel and Holy See diplomats that requires the immediate reporting of abuse allegations to Vatican prosecutors, a policy shift aimed at being a model for the Catholic Church worldwide.

The mandatory reporting provision, while limited in scope, marks the first time the Vatican has put into law requirements for Catholic officials to report allegations of sex crimes to police or face fines and possible jail time.

Francis also issued child protection guidelines for Vatican City State and its youth seminary, acting after the global sex abuse scandal exploded anew last year and The Associated Press reported that the headquarters of the Catholic Church had no policy to protect children from predator priests.

While the new norms only cover Vatican City State, affiliated institutions and the diplomatic corps, they were still symbolically significant and were welcomed by a former seminarian whose case helped spark the reform.

“I see this as something positive,” Kamil Jarzembowski told the AP.

The law for the first time provides an explicit Vatican definition for “vulnerable people” who are entitled to the same protections as minors under church law. The Vatican amended its canon law covering sex abuse to include “vulnerable adults” several years ago, but never defined it.

According to the new Vatican definition, a vulnerable person is anyone who is sick or suffering from a physical or psychiatric deficiency, isn’t able to exercise personal freedom even on occasion and has a limited capacity to understand or resist the crime.

The issue of whether adult seminarians, religious sisters or other adults who are emotionally or financially dependent on clergy can be considered “vulnerable people” has come to the fore in the wake of the scandal over ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a once high-ranking American cleric accused of molesting seminarians, and revelations of priests and bishops sexually preying on nuns.

READ MORE: Vatican clarifies pope on issue of ‘sexual slavery’ of nuns

The new law covers all personnel who live and work in the Vatican, the 44-hectare (110-acre) city state in the centre of Rome, as well as the Holy See’s vast diplomatic corps in embassies around the world.

The Vatican’s ambassadors have figured in some of the most scandalous cases of sex abuse in recent years, with papal representatives accused of groping, distributing child pornography and sexually abusing minors in their far-flung posts.

The law now requires any Vatican public official who learns of an allegation of abuse to report it to Vatican prosecutors “without delay.” Failure to do so can result in a fine of up to 5,000 euros ($5,615) or, in the case of a Vatican gendarme, up to six months of prison.

The legislation requires that victims be welcomed, listened to and provided with medical, psychological and legal assistance, and sets the statute of limitations at 20 years past the victim’s 18th birthday. They must be kept apprised of the investigation.

Victims and their families are to be protected from any retaliation, answering longstanding problem faced by victims, including Jarzembowski, who reported abuse at the Vatican youth seminary only to be kicked out the following year.

Mimicking some provisions in place in the U.S. church, the provisions require background checks for Vatican staff and volunteers working with minors and calls for safe environment training for all Vatican personnel.

The accused is to be removed from their job pending the investigation, and be allowed to defend themselves.

In a statement accompanying the new law, the Vatican’s editorial director, Andrea Tornielli, said while very few children actually live in the Vatican City State, Francis decided to make the legislation and accompanying guidelines a model.

Last year, AP reported that Vatican City had no policy to protect children or require suspected abuse to be reported to police, even though the Holy See required such policies in Catholic dioceses around the globe and had told the U.N. in 2013 that such a policy was in the works.

The absence of clear-cut policy became evident following revelations that Jarzembowski, then a teenage seminarian in the Vatican’s youth seminary had, in 2012, accused one of the older boys of sexually molesting his roommate.

Nothing came of it. Vatican police, who have jurisdiction over the territory, weren’t called in to investigate. A series of bishops — including Cardinal Angelo Comastri, Francis’ vicar for Rome and the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica — said they investigated, but no one ever interviewed the alleged victim.

Jarzembowski was promptly kicked out of the seminary while the accused seminarian was ordained as a priest.

On Friday, Jarzembowski told AP the law was a positive step forward, particularly its explicit recognition that the pre-seminary falls under its jurisdiction.

“Before there was a situation where a group of kids were there, in the Vatican City State, but they were seemingly in a legal limbo,” he said.

He praised the mandatory reporting requirement, noting that all survivor advocacy groups “the first thing that they do is say there must be the obligation to report to public authorities.”

Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The baby boy born to Gillian and Dave McIntosh of Abbotsford was released from hospital on Wednesday (Nov. 25) while Gillian continues to fight for her life after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
Abbotsford mom with COVID-19 still fighting for life while newborn baby comes home

Son was delivered Nov. 10 while Gillian McIntosh was in an induced coma

Abbotsford resident Leonna Dunning is now $50,000 richer after a big win on a scratch ticket. (Submitted)
Abbotsford woman wins $50,000 on scratch ticket

Leona Dunning purchased winning ticket at 7-11 on McCallum Road

Google Maps image.
Four more school exposures in Abbotsford

Two public and two private schools record exposures from Nov. 16 to 19

Google Maps screenshot taken at 6:07 a.m.
TRAFFIC: Westbound dump-truck crash on Highway 1

Crash occurred around 6:45 a.m., west of 232nd Street in Langley

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
Abbotsford mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 887 new cases

Another 13 deaths, ties the highest three days ago

Arthur Topham has been sentenced to one month of house arrest and three years of probation after breaching the terms of his probation. Topham was convicted of promoting hate against Jewish people in 2015. (Photo submitted)
Quesnel man convicted for anti-Semitic website sentenced to house arrest for probation breach

Arthur Topham was convicted of breaching probation following his 2017 sentence for promoting hatred

Langley School District's board office. (Langley Advance Times files)
‘Sick Out’ aims to pressure B.C. schools over masks, class sizes

Parents from Langley and Surrey are worried about COVID safety in classrooms

B.C. Premier John Horgan, a Star Trek fan, can’t resist a Vulcan salute as he takes the oath of office for a second term in Victoria, Nov. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
Horgan names 20-member cabinet with same pandemic team

New faces in education, finance, economic recovery

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A new ‘soft reporting’ room is opening inside the Ann Davis Transition Society offices on Dec. 1, 2020 which is thought to be the first of its kind in B.C. (Ann Davis Transitional Society/ Facebook)
New ‘trauma-informed’ reporting room opening next week in Chilliwack

It’s a space for reporting domestic violence, sexual assault, or gender-based violence to police

The corporate headquarters of Pfizer Canada are seen in Montreal, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The chief medical adviser at Health Canada says Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be approved in Canada next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Health Canada expects first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved next month

Canada has a purchase deal to buy at least 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine,

The online poster for Joel Goddard, who left his Willoughby home Nov. 10, 2020, has been updated by his family and friends who received word that he’s been found.
Langley man missing since Nov. 10 found alive and safe in Abbotsford

Family of the Willoughby area man had been searching for days. Police find him at Abbotsford Airport

Most Read